Actinobacteria are found spread widely in nature and particular attention is given to their role in the production of various bioactive secondary metabolites. Tests on soil samples show that there can be a diversity of actinomycetes depending on the climate, the area it is growing in, how dry the soil is, and the quality of the soil. However, it was agreed after tests in Yunnan, China, that the genus Streptomyces sp. is most important in ecological function, representing up to 90% of all soil actinomycetes, and therefore helping to show the important characteristics needed of the soil actinomycete population. Streptomycete compounds are used for other biological activities, not just for antibiotics. It has been found that metabolites can be broadly divided into four classes: (1) regulatory activities in compounds, these include consideration of growth factors, morphogenic agents and siderophores, and plants promoting rhizobia; (2) antagonistic agents, these include antiprotozoans, antibacterials, antifungals, as well as antivirals; (3) agrobiologicals, these include insecticides, pesticides, and herbicides; and (4) pharmacological agents, these include neurological agents, immunomodulators, antitumorals, and enzyme inhibitors. It is found that Streptomyces hygroscopicus is one of the very best examples because it secretes in excess of 180 secondary metabolites to locate simultaneous bioactivities for a given compound. Increasingly, both its agricultural and pharmacological screenings are being used in conjunction with antimicrobial tests and have revealed several unusual aerobiological and therapeutic agents, which were hitherto unknown for biological use as antibiotics. Since streptomycetes are now being used increasingly to screen for antimicrobial activity, reports show the existence of secondary metabolites with other activities that may have been missed. Currently, nearly 17% of biologically active secondary metabolites (nearly 7600 out of 43,000) are known from streptomycetes. It has been found that soil streptomycetes are the main source used by bioactive secondary metabolites. However, recently there have been many and varied types of structurally unique and biologically active secondary metabolites found and obtained from marine actinomycetes, including those from the genus Streptomyces. Also, compounds that are synthesized by streptomycetes exhibit extreme chemical diversity. Diverse form made from from simple amino acid derivatives to high molecular weight proteides, and macrolactones from simple eight membered lactones to different condensed macrolactones. Berdy (1974) introduced the first classification scheme for antibiotics referring to the chemical structure. On the basis of Berdy’s scheme, (1996) recognized that both low and high molecular weight compounds from 63 different chemical classes are produced by streptomycetes.
Part of the book: Basic Biology and Applications of Actinobacteria